University of Oulu

Stivrins, N., Aakala, T., Ilvonen, L., Pasanen, L., Kuuluvainen, T., Vasander, H., … Seppä, H. (2019). Integrating fire-scar, charcoal and fungal spore data to study fire events in the boreal forest of northern Europe. The Holocene, 29(9), 1480–1490.

Integrating fire-scar, charcoal and fungal spore data to study fire events in the boreal forest of northern Europe

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Author: Stivrins, Normunds1,2,3; Aakala, Tuomas4; Ilvonen, Liisa5,6;
Organizations: 1Department of Geography, University of Latvia, Latvia
2Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland
3Department of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia
4Department of Forest Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland
5Research Unit of Mathematical Sciences, University of Oulu, Finland
6Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Helsinki, Finland
7Department of Geobotany and Plant Ecology, University of Lodz, Poland
8Institute of Microbiology and Biotechnology, University of Latvia, Latvia
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 5.5 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2019
Publish Date: 2019-12-18


Fire is a major disturbance agent in the boreal forest, influencing many current and future ecosystem conditions and services. Surprisingly few studies have attempted to improve the accuracy of fire-event reconstructions even though the estimates of the occurrence of past fires may be biased, influencing the reliability of the models employing those data (e.g. C stock, cycle). This study aimed to demonstrate how three types of fire proxies — fire scars from tree rings, sedimentary charcoal and, for the first time in this context, fungal spores of Neurospora — can be integrated to achieve a better understanding of past fire dynamics. By studying charcoal and Neurospora from sediment cores from forest hollows, and the fire scars from tree rings in their surroundings in the southern Fennoscandian and western Russian boreal forest, we produced composite fire-event data sets and fire-event frequencies, and estimated fire return intervals. Our estimates show that the fire return interval varied between 126 and 237 years during the last 11,000 years. The highest fire frequency during the 18th–19th century can be associated with the anthropogenic influence. Importantly, statistical tests revealed a positive relationship between other fire event indicators and Neurospora occurrence allowing us to pinpoint past fire events at times when the sedimentary charcoal was absent, but Neurospora were abundant. We demonstrated how fire proxies with different temporal resolution can be linked, providing potential improvements in the reliability of fire history reconstructions from multiple proxies.

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Series: The Holocene
ISSN: 0959-6836
ISSN-E: 1477-0911
ISSN-L: 0959-6836
Volume: 29
Issue: 9
Pages: 1480 - 1490
DOI: 10.1177/0959683619854524
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The research was funded by the Academy of Finland (Proj. nos. 276255, 252629, and 275969), by the Kone Foundation. Additional support was provided by the University of Latvia project “Studies of the fire impact on the bog environment and recovery” with partners JSC “Latvia’s State Forests”, The Nature Conservation Agency and Latvian Peat Association, the Latvian Council of Science project No. LZP-2018/1-0171, National basic funding for science Y5-AZ03-ZF-N-110, the Estonian Research Council grants IUT1-8 and PRG323, and COST CA18135 Fire in the Earth System: Science & Society.
Copyright information: Copyright © 2019 by SAGE Publications. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.